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Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

I recently purchased the new album from the Goo Goo Dolls, and the band offered three bonus tracks on their website in 320 kb/s...

Amazon has them at 256 (v0)

and iTunes has them at 256 CBR

I was told that v0 is always best/more people choose it, but that it is hard to tell from the three. Basically, the quality will all sound the same for the most part...but then people said the Amazon was better. Wouldn't the band/label offer the best possible quality when you are buying directly from them?

The songs from the band are encoded with LAME 3.91

I also heard something about Stereo and Joint Stereo. Joint is with v0/amazon and just Stereo is the 320/band rip

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #1
At such high bitrates everything is the same.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #2
Wouldn't the band/label offer the best possible quality when you are buying directly from them?

The songs from the band are encoded with LAME 3.91

I also heard something about Stereo and Joint Stereo. Joint is with v0/amazon and just Stereo is the 320/band rip

A dreadfully outdated version of Lame configured not to make the best use of bits.  I'd say the answer to your question is no.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #3
I've asked for lossless in the past and have gotten it when it was not listed. Then there's no worry.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #4
and iTunes has them at 256 CBR


iTunes hasn't been CBR for such a long time now! It's 256 VBR Constrained (or true vbr 110? Not so sure)  surely it never was CBR but ABR.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #5
Wouldn't the band/label offer the best possible quality when you are buying directly from them?
Not necessarily, at all. I'd probably go with that in the hope that the band would get the most money compared to the alternatives, but they can offer whatever quality they want, whether good or bad.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #6
I guess many artists don't have much of a clue concerning the technical aspects of music distribution formats.

For example, you can get all the Pere Ubu/David Thomas albums at hearpen.com - in CBR 320, dual channel MP3. If you read the "technical aspects" page you'll know why... it's full of nonsense. Other artists may not even care about it at all - they offer what they are used to or whatever program they use has set as a default.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #7
Wouldn't the band/label offer the best possible quality when you are buying directly from them?

Obviously not, since they're selling MP3s.. 


(slightly offtopic rant: I don't see why they don't offer music in FLAC. It's not like they have anything to lose. Most people won't care anyway and will just get the mp3. Those of us that do care will appreciate it.)


I've asked for lossless in the past and have gotten it when it was not listed. Then there's no worry.

Wait. Asked who and gotten it from who?

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #8
Well if I had to chose where to download those tracks out of the three services.  I'd go for the cheapest

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #9
I guess many artists don't have much of a clue concerning the technical aspects of music distribution formats.

For example, you can get all the Pere Ubu/David Thomas albums at hearpen.com - in CBR 320, dual channel MP3. If you read the "technical aspects" page you'll know why... it's full of nonsense. Other artists may not even care about it at all - they offer what they are used to or whatever program they use has set as a default.


I was just thinking about hearpen.com. The tech info there is a strange combination of educated knowledge alongside some very dubious claims. I have long held mucho respect for David Thomas, and as an artist he is indeed a rare genius, but I admit that I scratch my head over some of what he asserts about the Hearpen tech process. "The conclusion to be drawn from every single A/B test [Paul Hamann and David Thomas] made was apparent within seconds!" he writes. These A/B tests yielded conclusions such as, "At every level CBR was superior, most obviously in the depth of field. At every combination VBR yielded flatter audio reproduction." Personally, I have never encountered this phenomenon. I wonder....

Perhaps this is precisely what his tests yielded -- I wasn't there, so I cannot say that he is wrong, but I wonder which encoder they were testing. It's annoying that nowhere on the Hearpen site is the actual encoder ever mentioned! Each release gives detailed information about the actual encoding process, but fails to mention the name of the encoder. Grrrr.

I do respect this, however:

Quote
Now, be clear on this point, "vinyl quality" is, in Ubu-speak, a derisive expression. "Gee, that sounds as good as vinyl" is another way of saying, "Gee, that sounds like a dog's dinner." The putative "warmth" of vinyl is another one of those mass-hysteria hoaxes that the human race is prone to. "Vinyl warmth" is not some semi-mystical, undefinable phenomenon. There is actually a technical term that audio engineers have for what you are hearing - it is called distortion. The bottom end is distorting. Now, distortion is a valuable audio tool, and an Ubu favorite, but only when the distortion is distortion we choose. You may like the phenomenon but it is NOT what we wanted and it is NOT what we heard in the studio.

It is possible to cut 12-inch vinyl with music that's been produced by post-1970 recording techniques as long as each side isn't much more than ten minutes in length and as long as you play by the rules. It is, however, easier to produce far superior compact disks using up-to-date techniques of analog tracking and high quality digital sampling - without the gratuitous distortion, overwhelming surface noise, and oppressive mix restrictions that vinyl imposes. Follow this link for more on this issue.

Note that we have had long experience of the Vinyl Regime. When we were producing vinyl our records were mastered and cut by the best engineers in the business. Every single one came back a bitter and humiliating disappointment.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #10
"The conclusion to be drawn from every single A/B test [Paul Hamann and David Thomas] made was apparent within seconds!" he writes. These A/B tests yielded conclusions such as, "At every level CBR was superior, most obviously in the depth of field. At every combination VBR yielded flatter audio reproduction." Personally, I have never encountered this phenomenon. I wonder....


Nowhere do they mention those A/B tests being blind.

I'm curious whether they could also instantly hear the faults of joint stereo if done with uncompressed data as the end results should be identical.  It seems like an issue that is easy to judge "on principle" with a sighted A/B test falling in line with the preconception.

edit: I also see they explain they are coding at 320 kbps which is 320 Kilo BYTES per second.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #11
Wouldn't the band/label offer the best possible quality when you are buying directly from them?


I agree with the others..If they cared they'd offer lossless..I would certainly be one to purchase and appreciate it.
Then the buyer(s) can transcode/convert to whatever lossless or lossy format of their choice..

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #12
The phrases "depth of field" and "flatter audio reproduction" (wait, the latter is a bad thing? ) should have been enough to dismiss those reports. I always think it's great how they're so enthusiastic, too. "[It] was apparent within seconds!" Probably because it was a sighted test, you tools.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #13
I too have many questions about their mp3 testing methodology, but is it really necessary to call David Thomas and Paul Hamann "tools"? I think not.

I doubt that their listening tests were blind, but, again, I wasn't there. For all I know they were testing an ancient Fraunhofer encoder that maybe did yield such obviously startlingly different results. Who knows? They don't say, and I wish they would.

As regards "flatter audio reproduction," I believe Thomas is describing spatial cues within the stereo image, or rather lack thereof. I don't believe that he is talking about flat frequency response in this particular context. Spatial information within the stereo image is a big thing with David Thomas, and he has discussed this a great deal over the years. As a musician and producer, he knows what he is doing. The same can be said of Paul Hamann's engineering skills. (Paul Hamann runs Suma Studio outside of Cleveland, which was founded by his father, the late Ken Hamann -- an engineering legend.)

As for the FLAC issue, I too would prefer that Hearpen sell FLAC. They do explain at the bottom of the tech info page why they currently do not. I happen to think that they are underestimating the technical skills of their audience, but they have their reasons -- and it's their choice.

Quote
We prefer AAC encoding but it is not enough of a standard at this point and our lives are too short to go about offering multiple download formats. Yes, we know about FLAC, and every other encoder you want to tell us about. For the record, FLAC files are a pain in the butt because of the portability issue. We don't want to waste away our lives telling people how to get them to play. MP3 is the standard. Like it or not.

Some sort of LossLess compression - FLAC or Apple LossLess - will be explored for special releases. Frank has placed a bet that people given the choice will still choose MP3. We'll see.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #14
As regards "flatter audio reproduction," I believe Thomas is describing spatial cues within the stereo image, or rather lack thereof. I don't believe that he is talking about flat frequency response in this particular context.
I assumed as much. My reference was in jest. Although I didn't make this explicit, I did intend to imply it using the emoticon.

Quote
I doubt that their listening tests were blind, but, again, I wasn't there. For all I know they were testing an ancient Fraunhofer encoder that maybe did yield such obviously startlingly different results. Who knows? They don't say, and I wish they would.
Exactly. Extraordinary claims mandate extraordinary evidence, and claims such as these seem quite extraordinary to me:
Quote
Stereo Imaging.
We tested "Joint Stereo" versus Interleaved (or "Normal") stereo files. Interleaving yields dramatically superior results for studio recordings. For live cassette or faux-stereo recordings Joint Stereo can sometimes be adequate.

Kilobyte Per Second (KBPS).
We started at what is considered to be the minimum quality setting, 190kbps. Yielded grainy results and too much distortion. Went to 240kbps. Better but not adequate unless we work hard to deceive ourselves. Top level of 320kbps was adequate. The throughput and bit rate scheme are intertwined factors so the testing process was not a simple straight-line affair. Again, it's possible that an endless and impractical tweaking process between all the variables involved might, in the end, yield a slightly smaller file size at a comparable quality but the advantage would be relatively insignificant in the overall scheme of things compared to the amount of work involved and, more importantly, the opportunity to make bad decisions.

Constant Bit Rate (CBR) versus Variable Bit Rate (VBR).
We tested all the varieties of VBR along with variants of KBPS. At every level CBR was superior, most obviously in the depth of field. At every combination VBR yielded flatter audio reproduction. Since the meaning of sound is encoded primarily or significantly in its spatiality this sacrifice seemed to us to be madness itself. That said, a high quality VBR setting can be used for live cassettes and still yield adequate results.

Conclusions.
It's clear that the only MP3 encoding method that can yield adequate results is an interleaved stereo file encoded at a Constant Bit Rate of 320kbps. This yields the largest possible file sizes but also allows for audio reproduction comparable to a vinyl pressing.
(The final sentence is also rather silly.)

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #15
WRT engineering legends, record producing legends, etc, many (most all?) have damaged their hearing in the process of earning their fame.

George Martin, for one, is now always quick to warn the young'uns to protect their ears and not follow his path to deafness.



Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #16
Quote
Better but not adequate unless we work hard to deceive ourselves.

Oh, this is quite priceless.

If not tools then they are clearly idiots (he/she/they/whatever); not just for what was in bold or what I've quoted.  There are plenty of gems to go around in what has been submitted so far.

Interleaved stereo as opposed to joint-stereo? 
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #17
I've asked for lossless in the past and have gotten it when it was not listed. Then there's no worry.

Wait. Asked who and gotten it from who?
I asked the publisher directly in my most recent case.

Artist Name : Deformer
Album Title : Diabolical
Publisher : Mindtrick Records; Redrum Recordz
Catalog Number : MTR006; RED 038

I asked the Mindtrick guys. The only thing I could find available for purchase was a 320kbps MP3. I forget from where. They told me that lossless would be available on Beatport in a few weeks, but I was impatient. He gave me an address, I sent him cash via PayPal, and he sent me to a link with WAVs in a ZIP.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #18
Why these over the top reactions and name calling? Does this really help to deal with the issue at hand? I am not going to defend the admittedly puzzling conclusions Thomas and Hamann arrived at. After all, I am the one who pointed them out to begin with. I don't doubt that they believe the conclusions they reached from their tests, I just would like to know why said tests revealed what they did, as they indeed seem to be very unusual results. I think we are all on the same page in questioning this.

I sent an email to Hearpen asking what encoder was tested and when these tests were carried out. For all I know they did this 10 years ago using a broken encoder. Some clarification would be nice here.

Let's see if I receive a reply.

As for this,

Quote
This yields the largest possible file sizes but also allows for audio reproduction comparable to a vinyl pressing.


whether you agree or disagree, do keep in mind precisely what Thomas means to say here:

Quote
Now, be clear on this point, "vinyl quality" is, in Ubu-speak, a derisive expression. "Gee, that sounds as good as vinyl" is another way of saying, "Gee, that sounds like a dog's dinner."


Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #19
And putting the two together, high bitrate mp3 sounds like a dog's dinner.

Smells like a duck, walks like a duck...
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #20
I have not heard any of the Hearpen mp3 catalog, so I am not qualified to say if they sound like a dog's dinner or not. If they do, then they are doing something horribly wrong. Hell, maybe they are encoding these using an ancient Xing beta. Whatever they are doing, it's odd that the people responsible for encoding and selling the things cheerfully admit that they feel that their files sound like a dog's dinner.

Let's just say that it doesn't make the prospect of purchasing all that, uh, enticing.

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #21
I have not heard any of the Hearpen mp3 catalog, so I am not qualified to say if they sound like a dog's dinner or not. If they do, then they are doing something horribly wrong. Hell, maybe they are encoding these using an ancient Xing beta. Whatever they are doing, it's odd that the people responsible for encoding and selling the things cheerfully admit that they feel that their files sound like a dog's dinner.

Let's just say that it doesn't make the prospect of purchasing all that, uh, enticing.

That's exactly the reason why I shy away from pruchasing anything from their website. I love Pere Ubu and David Thomas' solo work as well, but all these nonsensical wish-wash at this page really argues me out of buying any MP3's from them (apart from that I own most of it on CD anyway). If we don't want to assert that either Hamann and/or Thomas himself are fools about digital audio, then we must assert that they used some horrible outdated and faulty encoder to derrive their assertions from. A properly encoded 320kbps dual channel MP3 wouldn't sound bad at all, but who knows if they use a proper encoder now?

 

Band website vs. Amazon vs. iTunes

Reply #22
If we don't want to assert that either Hamann and/or Thomas himself are fools about digital audio, then we must assert that they used some horrible outdated and faulty encoder to derrive their assertions from.

I would then assert that they are fools for using some horribly outdated and faulty encoder.

Sorry, but they just don't get a pass from me for the nonsense that they spew.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

 
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